Competitive Project Call for Preliminary Research Proposals

Sugar Research Australia (SRA) has called for Preliminary Research Proposals (PRPs) that address the sugar industry goals, desired outcomes and impacts identified in the new SRA Strategic Plan 2017/18 – 2021/22. Applications closed on October 9, 2017.

The Strategic Plan identifies nine Key Focus Areas (KFAs) of which the first eight listed below are the focal points for research, development and adoption (RD&A) investment.

Key Focus Area 1:     Optimally-adapted varieties, plant breeding and release

Key Focus Area 2:     Soil health, nutrient management and environmental sustainability

Key Focus Area 3:     Pest, disease and weed management

Key Focus Area 4:     Farming systems and harvesting

Key Focus Area 5:     Milling efficiency and technology

Key Focus Area 6:     Product diversification and value addition

Key Focus Area 7:     Knowledge and technology transfer and adoption

Key Focus Area 8:     Collaboration and capability development

Key Focus Area 9:     Organisational effectiveness

A detailed RD&A Plan has been developed to deliver on our goals and can be found within the Strategic Plan. This plan maps out for each KFA the key RD&A priorities, stratified programs, outputs, short- and longer-term outcomes, key performance indicators (KPIs) and impacts contributing to our organisational goals. Applicants are encouraged to examine the RD&A plan in detail to ensure that proposed research projects align strongly with SRA research priorities, outcomes and impacts.

In conjunction with the re-development of KFA outcomes and impacts, SRA has assessed its existing research portfolio and has defined opportunities for prioritised research investment. These opportunities are described in the table below against their relevant KFA.

However, for research investment arising from this project call, a clear preference will be given to research proposals that address:

  • Linking knowledge on the impacts of pests, diseases and weeds to appropriate precision agriculture methods;
  • Remote sensing, detection, monitoring and decision support systems to allow;
  • precision application of control solutions;
  • Improving aspects of soil health;
  • Addressing crop constraints with precision methods;
  • Improving mill efficiency;
  • Building industry skills and capability in modern data applications (including GIS and precision agriculture related information); and
  • Building industry skills and capability in the milling sector.
Key Focus Area Investment Opportunities
KFA1 – Optimally-adapted varieties, plant breeding and release · Scoping work to assess technical opportunities for varietal improvement in a step-change situation

· Development of list of prioritised traits and potentially sugarcane genes as candidates for the application of new technologies

KFA2 – Soil health and nutrient management and environmental sustainability · Development and industry testing of a co-learning and decision support tool(s) for a range of fertiliser products including high performance products

· Monitoring of greenhouse gas emissions from selected existing sugarcane nitrogen fertiliser trial sites and sites where modern farming systems are implemented

 

SRA has significant current investments in soil health and is currently developing an integrated soil health program. The current gaps in this program have been identified as follows:

· Application of a DNA based diagnostic for sugarcane root health and function that can be integrated into a commercial delivery platform(s) and tested in parallel with soil health toolbox technologies under development

· Developing strategies to increase soil carbon levels at depth that could include high organic inputs, rotation crops, cover crops and intercropping strategies

· Improving our understanding of carbon sequestration, microbial functional capability and linkages to disease suppression and soil nitrogen mineralisation capacity

KFA3 – Pest, disease and weed management · Linking knowledge on the impacts of pests, diseases and weeds to appropriate precision agriculture methods, remote sensing, detection, monitoring and decision support systems to allow precision application of control solutions

· Application of the Pre-Dicta B platform in sugarcane farming systems in parallel with soil health toolbox technologies under development to monitor and benchmark improved management of soil borne diseases under modern farming systems

KFA4 – Farming systems and harvesting · Development of fine scale spatial maps of soil properties and yield variability for prioritised sugarcane farming regions

· Explore the combination of variety, farm management practices and production constraints to maximise variety performance

· Projects on irrigation will need to consider the outcomes of a September industry irrigation workshop that will prioritise future investment. The outcomes of this workshop are available at the bottom of this web page. Applicants interested in submitting proposals on irrigation should contact the SRA Research Funding Unit for more information.

· Projects in the harvest losses area will not be considered – future investment priorities will be developed within SRA’s large current investment in this area

KFA5 – Milling efficiency and technology · A separate investment scheme for small-scale applied milling projects is under development with a likely release in January 2018. Please contact the Research Funding Unit for more details if needed

· Identify barriers to improvements in milling efficiency and develop mitigation strategies and/or solutions

KFA6 – Product diversification and value addition · Assess potential diversification and value adding opportunities that are already implementable and develop a prioritised plan for further R&D activities to progress future “best bet” diversification ideas towards evaluation, demonstration and adoption
KFA7 – Knowledge and technology transfer and adoption · Building industry skills and capability in modern data applications (including GIS and precision agriculture related information) and in the milling sector
KFA8 – Collaboration and capability development · No prioritised opportunities defined

SRA thanks those who submitted PRPs.

SRA will run a two-stage assessment process for research projects, with a shortlisted selection of PRP applicants invited to submit a Full Research Proposal (FRP). Successful applicants will be contracted to begin project activities from July 1, 2018 onwards.

Outside of this project call, SRA also provides financial support for research applications to other external research grant schemes where significant industry benefit can be delivered. For applications to other grant schemes to be considered by SRA, they must be received in a PRP format within SugarNet – this provides the Research Funding Panel with an appropriate depth of knowledge from which a recommendation can be made to the SRA Board to support or not support the application.

As examples, SRA has previously supported research applications to schemes such as Advance Queensland, Rural R&D for Profit and ARC Linkage. It is important that potential applications to external grant schemes are discussed with the SRA Research Funding Unit well in advance of the scheme deadline. Applications will not be considered for investment if insufficient time is provided for appropriate scrutiny and assessment.

For further information on the SRA project call, contact the SRA Research Funding Unit via funding@sugarresearch.com.au or (07) 3331 3333.